Spurs travel to Anfield this weekend in the return fixture of the match that defined our season. Back on 15th December Tottenham lost 5-0 at White Hart Lane. Within 24 hours, manager Andre Villas Boas had been sacked. There were mitigating circumstances – injury problems that led to us fielding Capoue at centre back, Paulinho’s 63rd minute red card and Sandro having to go off injured after half an hour – but a series of poor performances saw Daniel Levy wield the axe.
Liverpool are having a fantastic season. They lie second, just one point off the top, having transformed themselves from seventh placed also-rans, to genuine title contenders. Brendan Rodgers must take much of the credit in his second season at the Merseyside club. He has shown pragmatism in adapting his tactics and has bought well. His team are in great form at present, having won their last seven league games and are unbeaten in 12. Spurs sit 12 points and four places further back, with a staggering 45 worse goal difference.
The most impressive things about the Liverpool renaissance has been their attacking form. Rodgers has married his passing and possession based principals, with a more direct, counter attacking approach. This can be seen in the differences in their average game statistics between last year and this.
Since last season, their average possession has gone down from 57.2% to 54.5%. Short passes have fallen from 475 per game to 456. Through balls have jumped from 3 to 5 a game, whilst the percentage of goals categorised as resulting from counter attacks has increased dramatically from 1.4% to 9.5%. Their set piece percentages have also improved.
Liverpool’s strongest asset is their two front men, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, who sit first and second in this season’s Premier League scoring charts. Suarez also leads the league in assists after a superlative season. The forwards are ably supported by Philippe Countinho, playing in a creative role just behind the front two, and a rejuvenated Steven Gerrard in central midfield.
If they have a weakness, it is in defence. If Spurs can contain their attack – and it’s a big if – then they should be able to create chances at the other end of the pitch. Liverpool have been particularly weak at defending on the flanks, so this might be a lucrative area to apply pressure to.
Tottenham will look to build on the comeback victory against Southampton. Kyle Walker is still sidelined for the trip up north, along with long term injury victims Lamela and Capoue. Vlad Chriches made it through 90 minutes with the under 21s on Friday, so will also miss out, but may return in the near future. The biggest uncertainty surrounds Adebayor. Having missed the last two games with a cut foot, he may not be risked.
The key against Liverpool will be to play a more cautious line up and, especially considering their danger on the counter attack and propensity towards through balls, dispense with the high defensive line. I would therefore play Sandro in a holding role. I have been really disappointed with Rose in recent game, so would play Fryers at left back.
Liverpool are kind of the rich man’s Southampton and Sigurdsson’s pressing in midfield was very effective in the second half last week. This will come in handy against such an attacking team, so I would start him here.
Given Liverpool’s weakness at defending out wide, I would play two orthodox wingers. Lennon continues to show poor form, so I would go with Towsend and Chadli. I would move Eriksen to the centre. We can’t afford to play him on the left as this will leave whoever plays at left back very exposed.
Here is my team:
Do you agree? Let me know your team and thoughts in the comments below.
Liverpool are strong favourites at 1.48, the draw is 5.1, while Spurs are out at 7.4.